Chasing Stories Across Europe: USC Journalism Abroad

Today’s post comes from our ACCENT Paris Study Center, where USC Journalism student Cole Sullivan discusses what it was like to film and edit professional news segments in two European countries. Watch the segments and learn about the effort and passion that goes into each and every story.

At USC, I’m a broadcast journalism student. When I decided to study abroad in Paris, I knew I wanted to do more than visit museums, eat crêpes, and drink wine. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to do all those things, but I also wanted to continue my journalism education.

For me, that’s meant filing stories for my campus newscast while I’m abroad. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous to start these first two stories. When I report in Los Angeles, I do so in my native tongue and in a community I have a better understanding of. Here in Europe, I don’t know the laws regarding press access, let alone what the response will be to my questions.

Still, I set out to do my first story about two weeks after arriving here. I knew I wanted to do a piece on the 2024 Olympic Games being awarded to Paris because my colleagues at USC were working on stories about the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. My international story would fit in nicely.

I asked my host mom where I should go to get “man on the street” interviews. These are interviews you often see on your newscast that “take the temperature” in a very informal way with people just walking down the street. My host mom suggested I go to a Wednesday morning market a couple blocks away. I did and then had the intimidating experience of cold approaching random French men and women in the street and asking them (in still very rusty French) if I could ask them a question about the Olympic Games.

Overall, I got about the same response rate I get back at USC. Most people say no, some blatantly ignore you, and others (often begrudgingly) agree to speak on camera. When I listened to the interviews back, I realized that between my limited command of French and my nervousness, my questions barely made any sense. The fact I got such insightful and thoughtful answers from the people I stopped is a testament to their charity. I think it helped that I loudly proclaimed “Je suis un étudiant” (I am a student) before I asked them anything.

My second story was on the national parliamentary elections in Germany. For this piece, I flew to Berlin and, with the assistance of a student producer back home, got a press pass to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s election night rally. So I knew I had one piece of the story for sure; I was going to be able to get b-roll from Merkel’s speech. Apart from that, though, I had to make the most of my 36 hours in a country I had never visited before.

I still don’t know how I managed to gather all my elements and make the deadline within 26 hours of arriving in Berlin. I can tell you that I did not sleep much, ate less, and basically worked myself to exhaustion. Still, it was one of the most incredible journalism experiences I’ve had. I was standing next to reporters for CNN, photographers from the Associated Press, and countless other professional journalists. I really do believe I was the only college reporter in the room.

I slept on a friend’s boyfriend’s couch, ate street food as I walked from one filming location to another, and recorded my voiceover while hiding under a duvet (it mimics a sound booth, making my voice sound as if it was recorded in a real studio). If that doesn’t sound fun to you, journalism isn’t the right career choice. For me, it was a blast and that only further commits me to pursing this career in the future.   ~ Cole Sullivan, University of Southern California, Paris

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